NEW YORK -- With the success of his own franchise films like "The Transporter" and "Crank," as well as being a part of "The Expendables" and newly added to the "Fast and Furious" series, Jason Statham is a bona fide action star. But with his latest film, "Redemption," the actor shows his acting range by playing a homeless soldier on the streets of London.
Statham says he was drawn to the role because of its writer, Steven Knight, who penned the London underbelly dramas, "Eastern Promises" and "Dirty Pretty Things." The 45-year-old is hoping to add another dimension to his movie career, which began in 1998 when director Guy Ritchie discovered him selling perfume and jewelry on the streets of London.
Q. What did you learn about homeless soldiers while doing this film?
A. We sat with ex-soldiers and they told us how difficult it was to come back. They told us stories about their friends, how they lost an eye, how they lost limbs. How do you expect to get a job with a disability? You've been shown how to shoot a gun or operate a weapon, but all of these things are of no use anymore. ... We found a lot of soldiers end up on the street because they find it easier to exist there. They can function because it's almost like a frontier between what's legal and illegal and find a way to do something that they were good at.
Q. Steven wrote "Eastern Promises." Did you agree to do this film providing there wasn't a naked fight scene in a sauna?
A. (Laughs) That was a great fight. ... I admire it, but I don't want to be in it.
Q. You were once a diver for the British national team. How did that translate to action star?
A. It was a hobby and I went in a couple of competitions. Within a year I'm on the British team and I'm running around the world (in) competition. It's a 10-meter platform, you're throwing yourself around. You're doing spins and twists and you know you get to visit countries you never get to visit and you compete with all the nationalities around the world. It's a giggle. It's not something I ever thought I would do anything with. I just wasted 10 years on it that's all. I think people think that's my calling card, which it never was.
Q. When (Sylvester) Stallone called you for "The Expendables," was it like getting accepted into the all-star game of action stars?
A. Of course. I'm from the U.K. (laughs.) There's no big action stars out there and for me to get the invite was a great thing. It's a big privilege to be part of the cinema icons. ... There's no one on the planet that doesn't recognize the man (Stallone) so to be asked to come to the party is a big privilege and you can never overlook that great sort of invite.
Q. With basically you and James Bond as the country's action stars, how are you perceived in the U.K.?
A. I have no clue (laughs). I wouldn't know. Let's see. ... They'll review this and we'll see what they think of it. I don't know. I really don't know. Sometimes you don't know what the critic wants to see, whether they like what I do, whether they don't. There's always going to be a fair amount of people that don't like what I do and an amount of people that do. I think at the end of the day it's about what the audience likes. ... The world's a big place and if people are going to see the films, we're only making it for the audience. We're not making it for people that don't pay to go see it. It's nice to have good things written about you but it's not good to get carried away because you can inflate your head to such a degree to think you're something that you're not. Constructive criticism is good but if it's done with a poisonous ink then I'm not so keen.
Q. After building a career on action films, what other kind of role would you take?
A. I'd love to do an action comedy. I'd love to anything -- if it's good, and the quality is good and the director is smart and the producer is a clever chap and everybody is working together. It has to fit me. It's no good for me to do so radically different that I'm going to look ... I'm going to regret that. There's no point.